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Original post made
on Oct 8, 2013
Fully anticipating lots of comments about our new website, I would like to start the conversation with an apology. There are lots of changes and improvements that we are still working on and that you'll see implemented in the future, but we just couldn't do them all at once. Like many such endeavors, this is a work in progress that will evolve in the days and weeks ahead, hopefully reflecting your feedback. We launched an earlier version of the site in Mountain View in late August through our sister paper, the Mountain View Voice, and received many helpful suggestions from online posts, emails and focus groups that have been implemented in this version.
Because of the immense amount of data (all of our content since 1994) that needed to be preserved and kept accessible, this has been a complex project. It's been a bit like renovating a large house, where we encountered various structural problems or challenges that had to be designed around. Compromises abound in this type of project and perfection is well out of reach. With a small staff, our resources are limited, but a lot of thinking went into the improvements in how our content is organized and presented and we hope that they will help you and others get more out of our site and enable more engagement of more community members.
We consider this a dynamic process that involves you, our readers. We have accumulated many suggestions since our last major redesign in 2006 and implemented many of them. And as we hear ideas for improvement in the days and weeks ahead, we'll be making further changes.
So as you share your feedback, please be as specific as possible with what you don't like and how you think it can be improved. We'll do our best to answer your questions and to respond to your suggestions.
Thanks for using Palo Alto Online!
After a quick look around: Clean, easy on the eye, should be e-reader friendly. Nice work.
I like the design. However, I hate Yahoo Weather. It is ALWAYS wrong. Always. The wunderground that the old layout used was a much more accurate indication of the weather. I stopped using Yahoo Weather years ago because it was never accurate.
Yahoo Weather currently has Palo Alto as being 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a high of 73 degrees today.
Wunderground currently has the temperature as being 78.7 degrees and a high of 81 degrees today.
My thermometer outside has the temperature as 79 degrees.
Thanks for the tip Nayeli. We'll check it out and go with the most accurate provider we can find.
I like it. Very clean and up to date look.
I note that there are now several new blogs. As well as Paul Losch and Steve Levy, there are a couple of food blogs and a parenting blog. On clicking on more blogs, there are several more.
I would like to know how these people have been selected to be PAW bloggers? Do they get a stipend? I have no criticism of this, just interested to know the who (although they have introduced themselves), the why and the wherefore of the reasoning behind this.
I think that being able to get better reviews of things like local restaurants and places of interest would be much more helpful than Yelp or the readers choice awards. The same sort of idea would be helpful with things like childrens' activities, local service businesses and recreational activities for everyone.
Like the layout. Easier to read comments. Noticed that comments to blogs are now separate from general forum entries. Was this done on purpose? Also who controls editing of comments on the blogs-- the blogger or the weekly staff?
Since th staff continues to ask for our real names when we post, will editing be accompanied by the identity of the editor ( in addition comments added by staff should be identified by name and not just town square moderator etc)
Good luck with the new format
The new bloggers were recruited by various informal means. A few were known to people on our staff; others had approached us. Some (those who meet our frequency-of-posting targets and who generate threshold levels of views and comments) will be paid a small monthly stipend ($80 to start.) We expect to add additional bloggers over time (and welcome inquiries) and will eventually split the group into "featured" bloggers and "community bloggers" based on the level of activity and their volume of posts. The featured bloggers will get promoted throughout the site and in the Palo Alto Weekly. We are especially looking for bloggers to write on travel and about school policy and politics. The idea is to broaden the community engagement and dialogue on a whole range of topics. We hope they are well-received (and treated nicely!)
Our goal is also to have all comments on blogs eventually restricted to registered users as an alternative approach to Town Square.
It is gentler on the eyes, but here are a few reactions.
The layout feels a bit inefficient with perhaps excessive use of white space.
I grew used of some color or line work to set boundaries between different areas of content, these are markers are gone, which make it a harder to discover content.
On the Home Page I miss the summary details of articles. Now it seems one article is promoted, another gets a short paragraph, and the balance only a single line. Often users only work off the home page, and you are showing less news content in the new design. I would have opted to maintain the news content which my hunch is the biggest reason folks turn to the Weekly.
As one goes to secondary pages, it did not seem intuitive why certain content was introduced. For example on the sports page I recall seeing blogs - where I would with to be focused on sports. Ultimately, it is forcing too many clicks to get to content.
Of course you are brave to submit opinions out in a community that probably has more per capita UI expertise.
One more comment - I have always wished you could log in to Palo Alto Online in the same screen area where one drafts a comment. I typically write the post, then have to do the log on. The site is not friendly to that approach as one has to scroll far to the top on a hot issue, and then hope after login that the comment has not been lost. Also, there has never been an edit feature to these posts - my greatest vulnerability is I do my most careful read after I hit submit.
Not an issue,
Yes, the blogs are separate from Town Square, something that was necessary for technical reasons and because we wanted to give bloggers greater visibility and identity. We are hoping that this won't limit participation.
The bloggers will have primary responsibility for editing and monitoring their blogs, but our staff moderators will also receive notices of "objectionable posts" and will be checking them. We've conducted a training of the bloggers on our editing guidelines, and encouraged them to do what we don't have time to do...explain the reasons they delete a portion of a comment. We haven't discussed distinguishing between an edit made by the blogger and one made by our staff, but that's a good idea. One thing that is important to know is that our bloggers do not have access to any information about a registered user. They see the same information you see on the site, but also have editing abilities (just on their blog.)
I don't know if the problem is the fonts or the colors or the spacing, but I find the new design much harder to read that before. Individual articles are harder to read. Articles are also harder to find from the home page, with most articles hidden under the "View more local news" fine print.
I also found the Mountain View Voice web site hard to read. I really tried to give it a chance, but eventually stopped visiting them for the most part.
Does it suffer from the same problems as Mountain View Voice?
AAACKKK, this old dog is getting resistant to learning new tricks!
Oh well, I'll have to give it a try as I really value PA Weekly's coverage of local issues.
Too busy and the sections all look so similar its difficult to hone in on what you are looking for or interests you. Too much white.
I hope you will find a way to reinstate the alternative view that was available on Town Square, of the most recently posted comment, without it falling under the topic headline (Schools & Kids, PA Issues, Around Town etc).
There could be three topics in PA issues and two in schools, and clicking each topic to find the recent comments is very time consuming.
You may see less postings from me at least until I can see that view.
oops, I see the view of most recent comments continues.
The assumption is that those users who are primarily interested in news will enter the site through the news page, where we present a full complement of news stories. Research shows that web users are going to home pages less and less unless they have not visited a website previously. The highest volume of our visitors comes to us through a specific news story via our daily Express email news digest. So we tried to make the home page simpler and more of a gateway to other content.
On your second point, we are working on a way for users to log in as they are posting a comment on Town Square and hope to have that implemented soon. As far as a poster editing posts already made, our concern is that such editing then changes the content that subsequent posters are reacting to, potentially creating a misleading thread. If you have thoughts about how to address that we'd welcome them. I don't know of any sites that allow a poster to go back and modify a comment they have made.
1) I agree regarding the wunderground weather link. It's an important link to me because it's much more accurate. 2) In "recent news" and the page I'm on now regarding the online launch, the column width is too wide and text is too small so I have to enlarge text on my tablet and swipe along to read each sentence. Please use narrower columns and larger text. (The width in the "news" page is great.) 3) I don't see all categories listed in town square so I can't access topic of interest to me. 4) I can't live without my Weekly!
P.S., I always visit your homepage first.
I would also like to suggest a way to preview a submitted post and edit before the final submit button. I have seen pages with this feature and the preview looks very like the final post but hasn't yet appeared for others to read.
I think the box for writing comments here is considerably bigger than the old style so it is much easier to see any glaring mistakes or get an impression what the final post looks like and easier to edit before submit. It probably makes a difference if people are writing on a phone or from a computer or tablet.
My biggest problem is the codes. I am fairly accurate but I often get the codes wrong and I don't want to lose the whole post if I make a typo on the code.
I like the format, but agree with the "too much white" comments. I read all three publications: Almanac, Voice, and PA Online, but now it is harder to distinguish them from each other. I liked the dark green for Almanac, lighter green for PA, and the blue-green for the Voice. Be nice to put a little of those colors here and there (lines, borders) so you can keep teack of which paper you are in and reading through. Also it is easier to navigate when the sections have colored borders.
Bill Johnson, " I don't know of any sites that allow a poster to go back and modify a comment they have made."
There are a couple of things that I have seen used on other websites/forums that allow for at least limited editing for an individual poster; one is the "post preview" which allows the poster to preview and edit the comment before hitting the final "submit" button, another method is allowing a fixed amount of time after a post has been submitted that allows the poster to edit the comment...something like a 3-5 minute window that allows editing and after that the comment cannot be altered by the poster. Using the 3-5 minute edit window, if the poster decides to completely edit their post = delete the comment entirely, there will still be a window there indicating that a comment had been made and deleted by the author.
Just food for thought.
I liked the way the City of Palo Alto improved their website last year. Their 'soft launch' for a 60-day period was a good way to solicit further ideas from the community and website users from around the world.
The result was quite good.
> Bill Johnson, " I don't know of any sites that allow a poster
> to go back and modify a comment they have made."
Sites that use DISQUS, a 3rd-party service, allow editing.
The Sacramento Bee is one such site.
As someone who's been known to comment here from time to time, my one suggestion is that PAOnline let users log in via FB, Twitter, Disqus and G+ at a bare minimum, and others if possible. This will make it easier for people to register themselves with PAOnline, will make commenting easier, and, most importantly, will bring reams & reams of new traffic to the site by sharing commenters' comments across their various social graphs elsewhere.
An article on best practices for this: Web Link
It was so easy to follow before. WHY did you change it? I don't bother with Twitter and Facebook and don't intend to.
This has too much white space, hard to find anything, and it's boring. You had a good thing going - why mess it up?
Any changes always take some getting used to.
@Chris, reams & reams of new traffic from elsewhere probably wouldn't interest our local advertisers, unless it's a local elsewhere. And I don't know whether comments from elsewhere would interest the local readers, unless thoughtful fresh perspectives on our problems of development, parking, schools, crime, etc, but I wouldn't hold out much hope of civil discussion. Tower of Babble.
Regarding the weather link, looks like Yahoo gets their input from The Weather Channel. I have no preference between them and Wunderground, and haven't noticed any difference in accuracy. Some discrepancy with local neighborhood observations may be due to data originating at the airport.
Agree that a "preview" function for comments would be useful. Won't agree with "edit" function, due to the confusion factor once everyone can see an original posting. People here are often pretty quick to respond to each others comments.
I like the new website so much better!
The format is very easy on the eyes and it's way more user friendly.
Good Work PAO :)
Don't care for the visual look and feel. Boring, lazy old white.
The shared login with Facebook and other social media platforms definitely has some advantages and we are looking at how to provide that option. At other news & information sites, limiting participation only to those using their social media identities has drastically reduced participation, so we're exploring how to provide that as an option but not require it.
Musical and others,
For better or worse, the iPhone weather is pulling from the same source our weather comes from, but it definitely has accuracy problems. One problem is that all the weather sites are pulling from local weather stations that vary in their reliability. Wunderground yesterday had an 8-degree temperature swing at the same time across its various Palo Alto weather stations.
Keep those ideas coming! They are very helpful and have all been logged on our project suggestion list for discussion.
@Musical - 63% of my FB friends live in or are from PA, and I expect that # is similar for FB overall. There's much more to be gained from connecting PAOnline to users' social graphs than not doing it, IMHO.
@Chris, thanks for the clarification. If they are registered to vote, we can advise them on Measure D!
Too much white. Really hard on your eyes if you are on-line a lot.
Agree 100% w/Joe, too much white.
Sorry, but I LOVE the openness and "white." Unlike so many sites, it's not trying to cram tons of crowded stuff and color in my face to draw my attention. It's clean, simple and very functional. Let the photos and ads provide the color...that's plenty.
Lots of white space, and lots of white bloggers. Diversify!
The white space now will be ads tomorrow.
White bloggers, yes true, and there are also twice as many women as men.
One blog I'd like to see is for the Chinese experience in Palo Alto. Think you can find anyone willing to do that?
As a web developer, here's some quick feedback.
1) The front page is hard to navigate as there's a lot of text and little delineation between articles.
2) Your web developer should try not to use inline style="" attributes. Makes it harder to maintain and edit the site design. Class names are the way to go
3) Gray gradient and rounded corners in the header look very dated
4) Here's a quick mockup I made to clean up your frontpage: Web Link
Why a three-column layout with the 3rd column blank? It a waste of screen real estate unless you're going to put ads or flash crap in it. Have an option to disable to flash/animated headlines at the top of the page. Or have it play once. It's distracting. Now I have to find a plugin setting to disable it.
I would prefer it if there were a larger number of stories that were easily accessible (i.e. could be clicked upon from the home page).
too much white, too busy, harkens back to the unfortunate merky-news changes (hmm...wonder why...)
Wunderground is probably more representative of local weather. The Bay Area has dozens of micro climates. My Weather station sensor is now on the SW side of my home and is 3 to 5 degrees cooler that when it was on NE side . Palo Alto does not have a singe weather answer. Wunderground offers a map of the area with the readings. IMHO this is a great choice
Too white and I find the photos whipping by at the top VERY annoying.
Back to the subject of the blogs. I enjoy reading the blogs and often comment. The fact that there are more blogs on more subjects is, I think, a good thing since they are local but commenting on restaurants in places like Half Moon Bay seems stretching it.
My main comment though is that there is no way of noticing if there is a new comment on these blogs. I don't like the idea of having to click on a blog to see when it was last commented on or updated. If you must have the blogs kept separate on the site, it would be useful to have a similar system whereby the top blog is the latest to have been updated or commented on just like the main news feed and topics.
The other point is that you say you wish to make the comments on the blogs restricted to registered users only. I think this is a detraction from the usefulness and interest of the blogs. As we have already seen on Town Square, once a thread is restricted to registered users only, the comments practically dry up. Just because a thread is anonymous it does not follow that the comment is less valid or overly critical. It just means that the comment is anonymous and nothing else.
I have had to stop commenting on news sites on Facebook as I have suffered abuse from other commenters both in the thread and on my private message and home page by those who do not agree with me. The fact that their name and photo is often attached to their hateful comments does not seem to deter them from making hateful comments or trying to invade my "private" page (although I know that nothing is ever truly private on the internet) makes me even more concerned about keeping my postings anonymous. My comments are always polite and respectful, although at times my annoyance may show through, but having my identity known or attached somewhere to an email address or real name would prevent me from giving an honest opinion on something controversial.
I enjoy Town Square and probably spend too much time here. I like the civil discussions and it doesn't bother me one bit if I am discussing with someone with whom I could pass in the street and not know it was the same person. I would be very disappointed if you made the blogs and even the main feed registered users only.
Please keep the openness similar to the present standards.
MY MOTTO HAS ALWAYS BEEN IF IT AINT BROKE DON'T FIX IT. PUT BACK THE ALMANAC AND THE PALO ALTO ONLINE THE WAY IT USED TO BE. NEW DESIGN IS CRAPPY
VERY hard to read. Tiring. Don't like it. Boring. It was all right before. Why change it?
Overall much better! You should consider bumping the font size on the body text up to 16px and also giving more line spacing to make legibility better on mobile and higher resolution screens.
Some very good and helpful suggestions here. Thank you.
Michael, I like the ideas of not having the carousel repeat, of providing a way to turn it off, and possibly having a gentler transition between slides. Maybe a dissolve?
Resident, your suggestions for improving the blogging presentation are excellent, and we'll see about creating a view that shows the most recent activity, similar to what we do with Town Square. That would be a very helpful improvement and show where the most activity is.
Thank you for the good ideas.
Agree with the some of the above comments:
1) I visit the home page primarily (it's bookmarked on my browser), and would prefer to see a longer list of all the day's news stories. I usually don't click on any of the individual pages (e.g. "news", "sports", etc.), and liked being to skim all the new headlines in those categories in the old layout.
2) Definitely do _not_ require Facebook or other social media integration to comment. As one who values (relative) privacy and keeping things separate, I think such a move would definitely hinder the lively discussions that occur here.
3) Also agree with some of the above comments in regards to the white space - it's a bit distracting and not an efficient use of space, in my opinion. Why not code it so that the page adapts to the size of the user's browser window?
Thanks for keeping us informed!
Why aren't there any afro-american bloggers! Someone to represent East Palo Alto. A bit racist wouldn't you think?
Absolutely NO to requiring any outside account (eg Face... or Twit) to post\
Why is Comments (at the top )a selectable item that does nothing?
We'll discuss increasing the number of news headlines on the home page; that seems like it would address the desire of some to not go to the news page. We expect, however, that habits will shift as everyone becomes oriented to the site structure, and that the heavily news-oriented readers will "enter" the site directly at the news page.
Regarding diversity of bloggers, we would welcome additional bloggers, and especially those with points of view or backgrounds that typically are not well represented. It would be great to have one or more bloggers who lived in East Palo Alto. There is a link on the blog page for submitting your name and information if you are interested.
SteveU, if you click on the number of comments in the little box at the top of the story, it takes you to the comments. Would you prefer that it took you to the bottom of the comment thread (to the most recent comment made?) We considered that but opted to have it go to the first comment instead.
Evidently the new career of stay home white moms in Palo Alto is "blogger" on paloaltoonline. I can hardly wait to read all about Mommy & Me, Me, Me, Me. Is this really necessary? How about 1 of these women rather than a baker's dozen? And since when do you have to wait for someone to apply? Why not approach some people in the community to get alternative, diverse perspectives. Latoya Baldwin-Clark already has a blog, gradmommy, that is excellent. Why not ask her? She has written an Op-ed for you before. How about a Chinese person? This forum seems to take special pride in bashing Asians. How about a blog about the Asian-American experience? How about the parent of a special ed student? You have interviewed so many of them that surely you have some numbers in your rolodex. Or some high school students blogging about stress, achievement, and homework? Are you saying that unless you are approached by diverse persons who want to blog you will have no choice but to continue to give the megaphone to the dozens of white upper class unemployed stay home mothers so that they can share their stories of adorable dresses from the Hanna catalog, trips in the mega stroller, playgroup drama, and their feelings of fulfillment? Cop Out.
Here's a gem from one of the many white mommy blogs: "I left a pediatric residency program at UCSF to care for our then infant son and spent the next dozen years contentedly gestating and lactating as our family grew in number." Here's another one: "My mom also stayed at home with my brother and me. She warned me that, although rewarding, it can be isolating. So, with her help, I learned the importance of getting out into the community and meeting other mothers. On the rare occasion when I am at home and have a hand or two free, I squeeze in time to scrapbook."
Although you did manage to find one employed mother, she's on maternity leave, and blogs about breastfeeding and babies. WHAT YEAR IS IT OVER THERE? It's 2013 here, Rip Van Winkle.
Since I am seriously thinking of discontinuing my Facebook account, I would say no to having to use any larger account ... I do not want people and forces unidentified to be able to piece things about me from what I have said in different places and making unwarranted or warranted assumptions about me economically, politically or morally. This is important as it is being done all over the world with huge databases.
With just a few punched holes in IBM Hollerith cards the Nazis were able to demographically separated Jews and others and figure racial percentages and calculate how to move a whole nation, and then the world into war and hate. Imagine if they had Facebook or even access to shopping data. This is playing with fire.
Well, there's your target user. Sell tickets to that.
Only just realized that there is a home page and a news page, do we need both?
I also just saw the twitter feed section. I like that and hope that it can be used for things like Caltrain delays and traffic tie ups in the area. Is there any way that we can highlight this twitter feed more? If it sends out useful stuff about traffic tie ups that we can alert each other about it will be very popular.
It seems that any comments on any of the blogs are being deleted either by the system or the bloggers themselves.
Your new pages look good and work well. Thanks for respecting your audience and asking them for feedback.
Note: a new look and functionality were also rolled out this week for Yahoo Mail. An unmitigated disaster!!! Things disappear and folders don't open. Pages overwrite on other pages.
And Yahoo shut off all feedback mechanisms: web and phone. They don't want to hear about the problems and are doing absolutely nothing to correct them. Going to the Yahoo Mail site is like a trip back to the 1985 web.
Maybe you PA Online can do a feature on this, or get through the Yahoo wall to give your buddies at Yahoo a jingle.
There is a bug that we are fixing that has resulted in some comments to blogs getting deleted. The bloggers aren't doing it. We're in the process of trying to restore the deleted comments from back-ups; thanks for having patience.
I miss the links from the homepage to the Almanac and Voice. I visit the homepage first, then I used to be able to easily scan for and read the articles of interest, then I visited the other two sites and did the same thing. It doesn't feel easy anymore.
I should clarify...the process of being able to easily scan for and read articles doesn't feel easy anymore.
I'm very puzzled by the idea of giving "bloggers" untrammeled dominion over the comments on their blogs. What is the rationale for this? The editing policy for Town Square already gives the impression of reading a newspaper with holes cut out of it, or a letter to someone in prison. The idea that these "bloggers" are going to be able to exercise any kind of reasonable editing of critics is just wacky. It's true that many of these "bloggers" don't pose much risk of writing anything that will attract controversy, but for those who do (see Doug Moran, for example), he's already at work deleting people who disagree with him.
Editor, can you comment on this?
Bill, is it because of legal pressure and threats that you have gutted the Town Square.
Benedict--- could be the weekly wanted Doug Moran to do a blog ( he has always been one of local movers and shakers a that the weekly likes to please) and his condition was the ability to edit the blog as he sees fit (I.e. remove any critical comments and disagreements with him) . Paul losch is also a very sensitive individual--- he gets upset when his comments are questioned. Maybe the weekly made a deal with the devil, so to speak, in order to increase we traffic at their site. Or, considering, the questioning of the Weekly's editing style, maybe they feel they can say-- " we are not doing the editing, the blogger is"-- to deflect criticism.
As at 9.30 on Saturday morning, there seems to be quite a few bugs and glitches.
The blogs don't show comments.
News articles on the news page have comments but they aren't showing up on the Town Square feed.
Twitter Feed seems stuck.
As Bill Johnson said above, some comments on blogger sites were deleted by accident. That happened on my blog and I asked the editors to restore the comments. Given the timing I think it is safe to assume that the deletions on Doug and Paul's blog were also not intentional.
I did not ask for the right to edit my blog as a condition for continuing but I am glad to have it. It is, after all, my blog.
There are not and never were any legitimate issues of censorship re TS. An anonymous blog confers an option not a right. It is the Weekly's site and, for me, my blog. Moreover, readers have the option to post criticism of bloggers and the Weekly on TS where bloggers have no editing rights.
I have not deleted any comments on my blog but certainly reserve the right to although 1) we have been asked by Bill to be very careful about deleting criticism of ourselves 2) I do not think respectful disagreement is a legitimate delete. I do, however, think repeating the same argument or criticism over and over as, for example, is going on with the Maybell sites is not particularly productive.
I think the new pages are hard on the eyes. They certainly are. Amusing me eyestrain.
Posters will note that the weekly still says that they prefer you use your real name when you post. Perhaps then, the weekly should lead by example-- all editing/ deletions of posts should contain the name of the editor who did the editing. In addition no more postings from " town square moderator"-- the moderator should identify himself by name.
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